Writing The Novel

al
albertsen
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Fri Jan 19, 2007 2:58 pm Post

Quite a few people say (and I think that Hemingway was one of them) that what distinguishes a real writer from a wannabe is that the former will revise his work until it's done, but the latter won't.

(On the other hand a friend of mine quoted: "You don't finish a text, you give it up.")

fg
fgrieser
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Fri Jan 19, 2007 3:22 pm Post

Jürgen.

>>(On the other hand a friend of mine quoted: "You don't finish a text, you give it up.")

I think your friend talked about "Text abgeben". That's not the same as "giving up" but "delivering" it (to the editor).

:-)

Greetings from Hohenschäftlarn.

Franz

fg
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Fri Jan 19, 2007 3:37 pm Post

Sorry, I was a bit too fast:

>>(On the other hand a friend of mine quoted: "You don't finish a text, you give it up.")

I think your friend talked about "Text abgeben". That's not the same as "giving up" but "delivering" it (to the editor) and "giving it away".

Franz

al
albertsen
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Fri Jan 19, 2007 4:18 pm Post

fgrieser,

that's what my friend said in German: "Man stellt einen Text nicht fertig, man gibt ihn auf."

So I think you'll agree that my translation is correct.

fg
fgrieser
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Fri Jan 19, 2007 4:39 pm Post

>>That's what my friend said in German: "Man stellt einen Text nicht fertig, man gibt ihn auf."

>>So I think you'll agree that my translation is correct.

You're correct, then.

Nixfürunguat :-)

Franz

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Studio717
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Mon Jan 22, 2007 12:41 am Post

It depends on the book, I think, as well as one's perceptions. In my view, an outline and a, uh, bad first draft are just different versions of the same thing: working out the story.

I'd recommend studying which stories you most enjoy and are similar to what you want to write. Are they intricately plotted or more character driven? Are they intimate, insular kinds of stories involving few characters and single/simple settings? Are they massive epics? Each kind of story will have ways of approaching it that make it easier to write.

There's a lot of snarky advice out there on how to write, usually by those who've never sold a thing. Ignore it, would be my (somewhat snarky :wink:) advice.

Be true to your own taste and judgments. Try various approaches and see what works best for you. Continually learn writing craft.

After all, a story only needs two things: 1) it must work, and 2) it must be written. :D

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albertsen
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Mon Jan 22, 2007 8:47 am Post

In my view, an outline and a, uh, bad first draft are just different versions of the same thing: working out the story.


You definitely have a point here. But in my opinion a bad draft is more fun to write because you discover the whole story on the way, while when writing an outline I always get the feeling that I'm barely scratching the surface.

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Studio717
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Mon Jan 22, 2007 8:01 pm Post

No question that writing writing is more fun than thinking about writing. At the same time, though, there are a heck of a lot more chapter ones in the world than chapter twos, beginnings of books with no middles and ends, and great ideas with nothing at all written.

Too often, without outlining, the idea fizzles and the writer has no notion of why or how to fix it. Characters take over, not because they are better able to carry a story, but because the original protagonist was not well thought out to begin with. Plots go off on tangents that go nowhere or have pay-offs with no setups. (Or worse in my view: Setups with no payoffs. Those are so frustrating as a reader.) A situation is not a plot, yet how many writers struggle endlessly to write an entire novel based only on a situation?

I know it sounds as if I'm advocating outlining over just sitting down to write. Outlining has its pitfalls as well. The most obvious (and possibly the most common) is that a writer never stops outlining, neven stops constantly tweaking the idea, and never starts actually writing the book.

What I actually think is the best approach is to do both. While outlining can head off some of the potential problems I mention above, there are some things it can't do.

The most obvious ones are point of view and narrative style. While each genre (and I include 'literary' as a genre) has its own set of parameters, within those parameters, there is often a great deal of freedom if the writer knows how to use it. Imo, the only way to discover which kind of pov (and it can vary through a story) works best is to actually write it. Same with narrative style.

Does a close pov work for this story? Does good pacing mean I should pull back and go into narrative just here? Those kinds of questions (and a lot of others) that a writer needs to ask can usually only be decided after writing the story and feeling how it works (or doesn't).

One of the glories of fiction writing is that there is no one right way. A story can be written in any number of ways and still be a great story. Each of those iterations will be a different story, naturally, and some will ring truer than others. For the writer, I believe that a combination of outlining and actual writing is the key to discovering the story that rings truest for her.

Whew! Didn't mean to write a whole treatise on this, but it is important to me that writers discover what works best for them. The right way is the one that works for you.

(Yeah, I know. Put down the cheerleading pom-poms and back away from the keyboard. :lol: )

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Tue Jan 23, 2007 12:11 am Post

del
Last edited by Maria on Sat Feb 16, 2008 9:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Tue Jan 23, 2007 1:49 am Post

Yes, Maria, very interesting! It is the same way with both fiction and non-fiction for me. I didn't really know what the dissertation was about until I finished my last chapter. And by some miracle of writing, I found that it came full circle in a beautiful and elegant way I could never have planned! With just a few minor revisions, it all works. Pretty amazing, this writing stuff. :)

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noah kai
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Fri Mar 30, 2007 2:24 am Post

KB wrote:Hi,

Well, as I close down on the Scrivener help file, I have also (finally) started using Scrivener myself, to plan and write The Novel. While doing so, I would be very interested to hear how others hereabouts approach writing novels - that is, do you plan obsessively, write outlines, just plunge in on your first draft without a clue where you are going, and so forth?

I have been re-reading Stephen King's On Writing and Milan Kundera's Art of the Novel recently, but then I decided that this was just more procrastination and have plunged into finding a rough direction amongst my notes. So, I'm interested in what others are up to, and how those who have successfully drafted a novel (or not) do (especially start) things.

I look forward to hearing about your working lives,
Keith


Well first off there is one thing I gotta say, where can I find Stephen King's On Writing? I've just started to read his books and thank god the man's stories has gotten me into the spirit of writing again!

Now Im just going to ramble on here, I'm not the best writer or good at realizing where I left a mistake so excuse me if I leave a typo in here by mistake.

Now I've always wanted to be a writer ever since the 8th grade when my teacher made me do a project where he just write a story and hand it in, I never got it back and the story was crap but it go me to wanting to write. Now four years later, after wandering around and trying some ideas but failing badly at trying to write them, I finally got an idea; and hopefully this is a good idea. It didn't come from sitting out on the porch drinking a glass of ice tea and thinking What should I write? no instead it just came in out of a the blue with the help of a tv show and a game book that I bought for the heck of it ages ago, the two separate things came together and boom I got an idea.

Again that's where King comes in, I was reading the Regulators and Misery before the idea pop in my head and I loved the books so much I guess my brain decided to dust off the typewriter that's in my brain and give me an idea. So I thank Stephen King for giving my brain the food it needed.

Anyways you are asking how everyone goes about trying to write right? Well for me between those four years I've tried it all, write my plots and characters down so I can get to know them before I write, research on what I want to use in my story, listen to music while I write; basically I tried almost anything and nothing worked. I usually stopped when I just started and even when I tried to write the first few pages I come up against a brick wall and when I look at what I have witten I know it's not good at all so I get rid of it.

So when I got my new idea I did the one thing that I never tired, I just jumped right on in as the idea was still pulsing in my mind, giving me hints or little ideas that I could use for the story. Now I'm just starting my third chapter and I got my first writers block which I am proud of.

I know that you, and anyone who reads this, must think Why in the world is he happy that he got writers block? The answer is simple, I have mentioned before that I tried writing but discarded the ideas knowing they aren't any good, but with this story that I'm writing I got it at least three chapters in, not at the beginning like all the rest and that made me happy because now I know that I may be onto something here.

I know that once I do this I gotta edit it like hell and go over it very carefully but that's the way it is and I hope I can complete this novel. I'm the kind of man who likes to describe things so short stories are kind of out of my area I'm just not use to them (especially if they are given a restriction on how many words you can use).

So I hope that I can do this and write my novel, I plan on making it into a trilogy hopefully because there is a lot of things I can do with what I have. But for you KB I wish you good luck with what you got and try different ways at writing your novel as well, you never know what you may find comfortable to work with.

As for the whole Scrivener thing I heard about, mostly read, I will not use it because of two reasons:

1) I cant afford to buy it once the 30 day trial is done
2) Last year I bugged my dad to get the new version of WordPerfect and he did, now I dont want to waste his money by switching to this.

But one day I will get it, it sounds really interesting and I would love to use it.

So good luck to you KB, and to everyone else!

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Fri Mar 30, 2007 2:59 am Post

I'm writing a historical novel that occurs in a particular place and time. I spent a great deal of time on research in order to get all the known facts, and then to assemble a timeline that put them together. (Many of the original accounts are contradictory or wrong, so I had to cross-check the evidence and verify it.) Another complicating factor was that characters are from three different cultures, all quite alien to each other at the time. I researched the actual characters and wrote out their back stories.

At that point, I felt free to invent fictional characters and stories that helped to explain or extend the original known events. I put everything into an outline form, following a chronology that was linear but also asynchronous at times. Then I began to draft. I followed my notes and outlines, but often surprises occurred. One of the characters exhibited a personality disorder, which led to more research. Another changed her parentage and education. I was not making those changes, the characters did. So despite all the planning, the mystery of creation still pushes the story forward. Keith, enjoy the ride!

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Timinator
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Fri Mar 30, 2007 3:36 pm Post

I think it's the programmer in me, but I have to layout a full outline. I have a full outline for the novel I'm currently writing. It has just enough details to give me direction but not so much that I can't create during the writing. I also did a background for all of the primary characters, a historical timeline leading up to the time of the story, and a set of definitions for terminology being used in the story.

Which is why I love Scrivener so much. I have folders for Characters, Definitions, and Outline Notes. Then a folder for each Chapter. Within each Chapter folder are the individual Parts (scenes). The corkboard is great for getting a review of all the scenes within a chapter.

I guess I basically create a "Specifications Document" for my story. :D
Timothy Trimble
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"scriptor ergo sum"

fi
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Sat Mar 31, 2007 4:45 am Post

One of the things I like about Scrivener is the index card feature, which reminds me of an old OS9 application called CorkBoard, which used to interface with the early versions of Final Draft. Anyway, I have a real corkboard on one wall of my "office" (next to the washer/dryer) and often have index cards up there with various plot points or scenes or character notes. I hardly ever look at it, though.

There's an annual competition held internationally, based here in Vancouver, called the Three Day Novel Contest (bear with me here), in which writers create a novel over the labour day weekend. It is insane but it can be done: I've entered it twice. Neither novella was picked the winner, but by golly it was an incredible experience to write in such a compact timeframe. And the point of this is, I went into it each time with an outline. I knew the main scenes I wanted to create. That, for me, was the only way I could get ninety or so pages in three days, and believe me, it is possible to not only write ninety or so pages in three days but also to get some sleep, if you don't overdose on caffeine.

Now as for the current novel, in its fifth draft. I am not using an outline. In fact, the biggest challenge for me with this fifth rewrite is not being bored, so I'm somewhat reluctantly opening it up to whatever new might happen, while sticking more or less to the plot in the previous drafts. It changes with each draft, of course, but the hardest part of it is to keep it fresh after so many months and years: this will be the fourth year, part time writing, that I've worked on this. Argh!

The other thing I wanted to say about writing a novel is that the only way to make it is to take the thing in smaller chunks, even as you know it may end up three or four hundred pages, to say to yourself, I'm writing this page...and then the next...and to set yourself mini goals. I try to do a chapter a month. That way, in, oh, thirty months...oh my God, what am I saying! (Five minutes silence, staring at what he's just written, tears dripping onto the keyboard)

Okay, I've just set myself a NEW GOAL: two chapters a month.

http://www.3daynovel.com
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Here's how my Scrivener binder looks early into the fifth draft, with only three chapters fully written...sort of...maybe.
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Sat Mar 31, 2007 4:54 am Post

noah kai wrote:Well first off there is one thing I gotta say, where can I find Stephen King's On Writing?


You just go to amazon.ca, amazon.com, or amazon.uk.com and you should be able to order it. If not try powells.com, the great big Portland used bookstore, a city unto itself. I've gotten lost in there and when they eventually found me I had eaten half a thesaurus.

And Studio 717 wrote: " A story can be written in any number of ways and still be a great story." For instance, take a look at Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Canadian author and emergency room surgeon, Vincent Lam (http://tinyurl.com/2gy8sd). It's a series of linked stories with the same characters. Some call it a novel, others a collection of short stories, but I think it functions as a novel and by writing it as a series of shorter pieces it would be much more...what's the word...realizable for someone with distractions in their life, who may find the size of a novel-length story too imposing.